River Birch Tree Root System

River Birch Tree Root System

Introduction To River Birch Tree

River Birch trees are native to South Eastern United State and as the name represents they are mainly found along the rivers and streams sides having inadequately drained soil. It is a deciduous and fast-growing tree or shrub. River Birch is a semi-aquatic plant and is a landscape tree due to its rich colours and appealing drooping branches. River Birch is a member of Birch which are deciduous, hardwood trees and belong to the family of Betulaceae. Batelulaceae family is commonly known as Birch or Alder family. Although they’re favourably found along the riversides and lakeshores, they can be grown anywhere in the USA.

Scientific Name: Betula nigra

Common Names: The black birch, river birch, water birch.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom:  Plantae
Subkingdom:  Tracheobionta
Superdivision:  Spermatophyta
Division:  Magnoliophyta
Class:  Magnoliopsida
Subclass:  Hamamelididae
Order:  Fagales
Family:  Betulaceae
Genus:  Betula L.

Species: nigra

Plant Specification

River Birch Plant Specifications

  • River Birch grows up to a height of 80 to 100 feet and a canopy spread of around 40 to 50 feet around maturity. The diameter of the tunk at maturity is 50 to 150 centimetres.
  • The plant grows at a rate of 34 inches per year and is a medium to fast grower.
  • The bark of the River Birch shows a great variance from development till maturation. For example, during the young age, the bark of the tree depicts pink to brownish-grey colour and has scales on it which often curls and can be peeled off easily.

River Birch Tree Young Bark

  • When the tree matures, the bark of the tree turns shape and colour from pink to red having thick layers of the wood. The thin paper-like peels often shed off.
  • As the tree ages further, the bark turns more adhesive and starts revealing profound grooves on it which are easily distinguishable.

River Birch Mature Bark

  • River Birch is known for having multiple trunks but it can grow as a single-stemmed tree as well.
  • Leaves of the tree are double toothed, diamond shaped and alternatively arranged on the stem. They are 4 to 8 cm long and 3 to 6 cm broad.
  • The male and female flowers are produced individually in the form of Catkins and are produced around April and May.
  • The trees are tolerant of excessive water but require full sun for proper growth.

Root System Of River Birch Tree


The roots of River Birch are far reaching but are non-invasive. Since the tree prefers to grow in moist, wet and clay soils therefore the roots do not penetrate deep in search of water since it is easily available in the upper layer of the soil. River Birch is a thirsty tree and requires a sufficient amount of water, therefore its roots spread to a good distance not vertically but horizontally to absorb the maximum amount of water. It has been noticed that during dry soil conditions, the River Birch tree starts shedding leave and ultimately dies.

The roots of River Birch are not a threat to the nearby foundations as they’re not invasive. But they are extremely absorptive notably near the surface, therefore, they restrict the plants to grow near the base of the River Birch tree. The roots require acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Roots of River Birch spread into a 4- to the 8-inch thick mat-like structure primarily near the soil surface in order to absorb the rainwater from the soil. In order to cope up with the height of the tree, the roots of River Birch thrive faster and spread quickly.

Uses of River Birch Tree

River Birch Tree Uses

  • River Birch is an ornamental tree due to its artistic fall colours. The leaves of the tree turn bright yellow in autumn giving beauty to the parks and streets sides where they’re grown.
  • They’re used to prevent soil erosion especially in the areas with prevalent mining activities.
  • The wood of River Birch is flexible and is used to manufacture furniture, toys, artificial limbs, flatware, woodenware, wooden shoes, basket materials, staves, and fuel.
  • The sap of the River Birch tree is used to produce vinegar and Birch Beer. A particular species of hummingbirds have known to drink the sap of River Birch tree.
  • The leaves of the tree when chewed raw are useful to cure dysentery.

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